Microsites for Vacation Rental Managers – A Warning

I regularly get asked by vacation rental managers about starting a second or third website to promote their business.  It seems they usually want to be told it is a good idea and that it will help them in Google.  Typically microsites are a dangerous distraction and should be approached carefully.

There are two reasons why a microsite may not be a good idea:

  1. Google  doesn’t want you to create multiple websites selling the same stuff.  Many of their algorithm changes over the last few years have been targeted and penalizing websites that are not unique and valuable.
  2. Most VRMs struggle to make their primary website perform at a high level.  Why spread yourself even thinner and create a second website?  Focus on making your primary website better optimized, more user friendly and more content rich!

What is a a Microsite in the Vacation Rental Manager’s World?  It could run the gamut of large to small, but here are the general ones I hear about: [Read more...]

Now You Can Watch A Full-Day Marketing Seminar from Your Desk

On Sunday October 9th, Trent Blizzard presented a full day online marketing seminar.  It was chock-full of timely and important marketing tips for travel marketers.

We are making the full video available on Monday October 31st.  You can order it for the small investment of $50.  It will be available “on-demand” so you can watch it at your desk and at your leisure.

Topics Included:

  • Google +1 is a promising new feature from Google that is still being developed.  Learn what it can do for you now and what strategies to implement in 2012 to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Custom Facebook Apps and Tabs: A review of the nifty, convenient and seductive world of Facebook custom tabs.  The real pros are using these to turn their Facebook page into a second website that can turn lookers into bookers.  Bonus: Blizzard will give each attendee a free Facebook App. ($250 value)*
  • Facebook Pay-Per-Click Marketing: Learn how to take advantage of Facebook’s PPC program to increase your ‘Likes’ and steal mind-share from your competitors.
  • Top Facebook Tips: The top 10 tips for getting new fans and engaging with your current ones.
  • Link Building is still going strong.  Learn about recent changes and how Google uses links in its algorithm. Bonus: Blizzard will give you 10 great links that will drive qualified traffic ($250 value)*
  • Website Load Time: Learn how your website’s speed… or slowness… is being factored into Google’s algorithm.  Find out how to measure your speed, track it in Google Analytics, and what simple steps can improve it.
  • Schema: Learn about the new coding directives that Google, Bing and Yahoo! rolled out in June, 2011 and how you can take advantage to help Google index your website.
  • The Changing World of Online Reviews: Google has changed how they index your reviews and your strategies should change accordingly. Learn the best way to get more out of your current reviews and where to drive new reviews.
  • Google Analytics: Learn about all of the changes and new features that have happened to Google Analytics in the last year that will help you to measure your growth and success.
  • Email Marketing: Learn some easy tricks and discover a few powerful tools to capture more email addresses, and get more out of your existing email marketing efforts.
  • Vacation Rental Marketing Benchmarks and Stats: Learn how your website compares to industry benchmarks using BlizzardTracker.
  • Booking Engine Effectiveness: Increase your conversion rates by implementing 10 proven features.
  • New Online Tools: Discover cool new tools to track your results, monitor your competitors, increase your effectiveness or just plain have fun.
  • $50 to watch the video-on-demand at your leisure.
  • The video is free for current Blizzard clients.

 

 

 

Google Plus for Business – First Glance

The early iterations of Google Plus are interesting to watch, but Google Plus is still only a curiosity from a business standpoint.  Not only is there not a business offering, Google has warned businesses not to setup a Google+ account for your business.

Officially, Blizzard recommends you wait a bit longer on Google+… but read on for more specific instructions.

That said, it is easy to imagine how a business could use the existing functionality to build a business page and create a circle of “friends” and clients to communicate with.  Right off the bat the Hangouts feature is a promising business tool.  Blizzard tested Hangouts this morning with a video conference call and it worked great.  It was an easy tool for a bunch of Blizzard employees and clients to get together at an appointed time and have a discussion.  Hangouts allowed just audio or audio + video.  Additionally, any user can share their screen.  Hangouts is limited to 10 people AND the organizer of the conference can’t control it. In this sense, GoToMeeting is a much better option for a more push-type presentation.  Here is a short video from Google:

We recommend that you:

  1. Get a GooglePlus (or Google+ if you prefer, I use them interchangeably) account for your personal business just to acquaint yourself with how it works.  Read Google + for Newbies if you want some great tips.
  2. Try the “Hangout” feature to see if you like it for business meetings with remote colleagues.
  3. Add the +1 button to your website, parallel to the “LIKE” button so early +1 users can start using it. Click here for directions on adding the +1 button to your website.
  4. Watch for the Google Plus business offering.

Google has released a first-glance at its new Google Plus Business Page with a demo by Ford Motors:

Hopefully, pages like this will be made available to all business soon!  Of course, it will be one more thing your social media and SEO marketing team will have to deal with. Sigh.

 

Google Places May Be More Important Than You Think

A fascinating eye-tracking study was released by SEOMoz today that is worth paying attention to. The eye-tracking research shows how eyes moved through Google search results and posted several “heat maps” of the results.  These results included Google Places and Google map data that is currently being “blended” into the search results by Google.  The conclusions Blizzard draws for hotel and lodging websites are not new:

  • How you look when you do rank is very important.  A lower ranking with a great looking search results can really deliver.
  • Because so many lodging related searches are “local searches”, your Google Places becomes increasing important because Google uses Google Places data to “enhance” a simple search result with red map icons and review info.

This is something we spoke about a few months ago when we got excited about how Google Places was giving individual hotel websites a big boost over Expedia and TripAdvisor in Google’s own search results.  The bottom line is that lodging companies should work to improve the visual appeal of their search results.  This will encourage the consumer to actually look and see your listing when he or she searches.  Practically speaking, this means working to improve your presence in Google Places.

I encourage you to visit the SEOMoz post to look at more, but here is an example:

 

Gross Revenue in Google Analytics vs Reality – A Wake Up Call

Amy Tomasello, project manager extraordinaire, and I were reviewing revenue data for a client the other day.  We wanted to compare what Google Analytics is reporting vs. what the client actually deposited “in the bank” for January.

The reality was pretty interesting.

According to Google Analytics, this VRM in Florida received about $85,000 in online bookings in January 2011.  When we asked the client to “match it up” with what she received, it was pretty interesting.  Photo Courtesty: Treehugger on Flickr

Here’s what we found out:

  1. Google Analytics doesn’t report cancellations, or those that call and move to another unit, be it less or more expensive.
  2. Some guests call and decline trip insurance, further reducing the gross revenue of the booking.
  3. Credit card fees and other “costs of collecting money” aren’t revenue, so even though they’re included in the gross revenue numbers, they need to be pulled out to get a true picture of revenue.
  4. Google Analytics DOES remove taxes from gross revenue numbers, so that math is already done.

So what did we find out?  In reality the actual revenue deposited “in the bank” for January 2011 was down around $57,000 – which basically slices about 34% off the top – WOW!  It was definitely eye opening.

I started to think, how can we track this better in Google Analytics?  I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, that the only way is to have the actual transaction “thank you” page divide out the fees and report those to Google Analytics as separate line items.

For example:

[Read more...]

Is the Old Off-Season the New On-Season?

Compete released some interesting data yesterday about how consumers view traveling off-peak in light of the current economic conditions.

The data was pretty interesting; most surveyed said they were more likely to travel off-peak in 2010 vs 2009, more than 50% were looking at traveling when the deals could be had and the destinations might be less packed.

Off-Peak

What does this mean for hotel, resort and vacation rental managers? It means your off-season might not be as quiet, and your on-season might be a bit slower because your normal visitors are waiting for that off season deal to hit their social network or email box. [Read more...]

Discover How and Why Location Based Services are Being Used in Marketing

Is it a just a game fad or a great loyalty marketing?

Some innovative marketers are turning to location based internet marketing and using it to track and reward their loyal patron’s visits to their establishment through a growing number of mobile resources.

There are a number of applications that provide information and/or allow users to “checkin” (register) their visits to almost any location based on GPS features in their mobile devices.  Some of the applications reward the user with awards and badges and sometimes the user can receive free or discounted rewards from participating establishments.

The number of users is growing but its usefulness is still controversial. [Read more...]